Dragons from Komodo to Rinca. Komodo National Park, Indonesia, July 2011.

Not afraid of Komodo dragons!

  Indonesia: Flores + Komodo + Bali - July 2011

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Dragons exist, I've met them! Scales, claws, forked tongue, everything is there... Listening only to my courage, I went to photograph these big prehistoric lizards or "varans" that live in the Komodo archipelago, in Indonesia.

Hunter of dragons

Indiana Jones can go get dressed. Not happy to take me for a princess on the PaschaI also became an intrepid adventurer, a dragon slayer, on the island of Rinca (pronounced "Rine-tcha").

Dragons from Komodo to Rinca. Komodo National Park, Indonesia, July 2011.

With that of Komodo - in the archipelago of the same name - Rinca is the other island where tourists are disembarked to meet the famous Komodo dragons. They are very big lizards, family of the monitor lizards. They are endangered and protected. There would be between 4,000 and 5,000 left in the Sunda Islands in Indonesia.

Listening only to my courage, I went to photograph them for you... Not even afraid!

Prehistoric monsters

Komodo dragon. Rinca Island, Indonesia, July 2011.

Komodo dragon. Rinca Island, Indonesia, July 2011.
One of the dragons deigns to show us his forked tongue ... (Rinca Island, Indonesia, July 2011)

Admire the big ugly claws, the prehistoric scales, the forked tongue! These monsters have been feeding fears and fantasies since the beginning of the 20th century, when Westerners discovered them.

It's the expedition of the American William Douglas BurdenIn 1926, he left to explore this archipelago at the end of the world, which made them famous: he brought back two living specimens and we owe him the expression "Komodo dragons". This expedition even inspired the film King Kong of Cooper and Shoedsack in 1933! Three of his stuffed monitors can still be seen at the American Museum of Natural History.

Komodo monitor attacks on a child (in 2007) and a fisherman (in 2009), as well as the story of this small group of divers stranded on the island of Rinca (in 2008), who had to repel a lizard throwing stones, continue to maintain the fear inspired by these charming critters.

Attention, danger!

That said, the Komodo dragons may have become a tourist attraction, but beware of it. The rangers who make you visit the island are armed with long forked sticks. This is not to amuse the gallery nor just for photos. This is to repel the giant lizard too fearless who would be tempted to approach.

Komodo dragon. Rinca, Indonesia, July 2011.The Komodo lizards measure 2.50 to 3 meters long, tail included. It was long thought that their saliva contained very toxic bacteria. In fact, like other reptiles, they have venom glands [see the section "Venom and bacteria" on Wikipedia]. A bite can be fatal.

One would think them slow and clumsy, when one discovers them huddled up, in the process of sleeping, near the garbage cans of one of the rangers' bungalows, which serves as a kitchen. But they are incredibly fast and agile.

Ranger-guides plan to take pictures to prevent unwary tourists from coming too close. A small group of visitors has also taken possession of the overhanging terrace to better observe them when we arrive.

It is really recommended not to approach too much. The dragons have become accustomed to human presence, they know they can find food in the area. But they remain wild animals, with unpredictable reactions. Courageous, but not reckless, I wisely remain at a distance, following the instructions of the rangers. Indiana Jones would have done the same.

Rinca Island. Komodo National Park. Indonesia, July 2011.
Here I am, ready to face the dragons! (Rinca Island. Komodo National Park. Indonesia, July 2011)

Then everyone leaves to explore the island, preceded by a ranger armed with a forked stick.

I admit, I am a little disappointed not to have met other dragons on the way. The only ones I've seen - and photographed - are those who hang out near the ranger's quarters.

Under the sun of Rinca

Rinca Island is arid. A savannah landscape, with very little shade, overlooking the azure water. A few palms here and there.

Rinca Island. Komodo National Park. Indonesia, July 2011.
Walk on the island of Rinca. (Komodo National Park, Indonesia, July 2011)

Rinca Island. Komodo National Park. Indonesia, July 2011.

The only big beast we encountered during this small expedition was a wild buffalo. I was scared only after. Realizing that said buffalo was not attached.

Well yes, I'm used to rice paddies, I didn't think about it at first. We're in a nature reserve, here! The animals are free. It can be as dangerous as a monitor, a wild buffalo...

Rinca. Komodo National Park. Indonesia, July 2011.Two hours of walking in full sun. But the ride is worth it.

Jerome, my guide diving on the Pascha...is in the game. And our adorable guide ranger stops regularly to show us the natural curiosities of the island: edible fruits imprisoned in a gourd, whose name I have forgotten. Water hens hiding in the mangrove. The holes dug by the female monitors, where they lay their eggs. A monkey hanging high in a tangle of branches.

At every turn of the trail, I watch, hoping for a monitor. But no. Nothing. Another hen of water.

My soul Indiana Jones and my bravery begin to melt under this ruthless sun. We share the sips of water that remain at the bottom of the bottles. When the walk ends, it is with happiness that I find the ranger's memories hut, where I do not buy any wooden figurine with the effigy of the dragons, but where I get a boost of energy. shade, sipping an almost fresh Coke.

A tip to our guide and here we are ready to re-embark on the Pascha. I am a bit sad. Because it's also my last day in the Komodo archipelago ...

But I still have a few things to show you. Because the beasts with teeth aren't just land creatures around here, there are plenty underwater too. (Indiana Jones, get out of that body!)

See you in the next article with ... komodo sharks !


  Indonesia: Flores + Komodo + Bali - July 2011

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  1. Quick! quick! the following! it's thrilling ...
    The story I just read reminds me of some adventures of Bob Morane, read in my childhood ... a forerunner of Indiana Jones somehow!
    Bravo for the text 🙂 and the photos 😉

  2. Hey, we tracked down Lara Croft!!!! A real adventuress. 😛
    Great pictures, I found that the iguanas Bonaire were already a good size, but that's really impressive ❗
    Komodo sharks ... oh, oh, definitely the rest !!

  3. @Ysbilia: Bob Morane !!! 😆 I'm very flattered... More coming soon !!!!

    @Fabrice: But if, I say in the article: they are considered to be endangered and therefore protected. In fact, it is even for them, to preserve the species, that the Komodo National Park was created in 1980.
    For the rest, I do not know if this protection has had a positive impact and allowed to see increase the number of individuals since. Hope yes. Even though the presence of dragons also poses problems of neighborhood with some villages. People do not like to see these beasts grow bolder and prowl near their homes. We understand them! It always poses complicated problems, the protection of the animals, especially if it is the local populations who suffer from it ...

    @Mathieu: But nothing ... The sequel is coming soon!

    @Laurence: Indiana Jones, Bob Moran, and now Lara Croft !!! Yeah ... I love it !!!!

    @ Oceane971caraibes: Are still there, the dragons ... Good for them, and for us who have the chance to go watch them. It's really fascinating.

  4. Nice report, congratulations! I had never seen these famous lizards so close.
    I am a traveler of the cities, a real wet chicken (... a water hen what;), able to not close the eye of the night because my bungalow is really too close to the jungle ... But seen from my home on my computer, it's perfect: I'm waiting impatiently for the sharks of the happy move.

  5. Ah yes, it's not convenient these little beasts 😉 . But I didn't think we could get that close. I had also heard that their bite could be fatal because of the infection it causes.

  6. Ah the dragons, both fascinating and a little clumsy. We can not imagine how fast they can be in front of prey and dangerous because of the bacteria not identified in their saliva.

    I saw them swim, and one of them wanted to climb on my boat (motor, luckily for me!). I was not leading at this moment.

    I told on my blog too, and on the last issue of Repéages Voyages. We do not forget the Komodo dragons once we cross them, do not we?

  7. Nice article for disturbing beasts.
    A simple stick is enough to remove them?
    Maybe we'll find out with the article on komodo sharks? 😉
    Thank you in passing for all these trips.

  8. @Marine @Arnaud: I did not get too close, do not worry ... The zoom of the camera allows you to shoot from a distance. And, frankly, the tours are very well organized, suitable for all types of visitors. You do not have to be Indiana Jones, really! As I explained earlier in the article, the saliva of these charming creatures contains toxic bacteria, and a bite can be fatal, so it is better to keep its distance ...

    @Alex: There are monitor lizards all over Southeast Asia, but those of Komodo are a separate family, it is a protected species. I had already met varans during my previous trips, including:
    • on Tioman Island (Malaysia), where there are fairly large, and rather impressive, to walk along the road; I had talked about it a little here: https://petitesbullesdailleurs.fr/vendredi-jour-de-repos-et-de-balade-20060714/
    • in the Perhentian Islands (Malaysia), where they are a little smaller, and similarly accustomed to lapping near the houses, where they come rummaging in the garbage cans. See here : https://petitesbullesdailleurs.fr/une-ile-deux-plages-quelques-varans-et-des-bieres-20060630/ I'm also questioning it: https://petitesbullesdailleurs.fr/geekette-on-the-beach-20090705/
    • on the island of Sangalaki (Indonesian part of Borneo), I mention it here: https://petitesbullesdailleurs.fr/excursion-a-sangalaki-20091025/

    @A World Elsewhere: Unforgettable, that's the word! Unlike you, I have never seen swimming ... and I'm not too sure to want to live the same experience, with one of these monsters trying to embark on board!

    @Landry: The stick is adapted. Afterwards, you have to know how to use it. As for the sharks, they are online !!!

  9. It reminds me of the lizards that I saw in Borneo a few months ago. I had no idea it could be so big, I was alone on a trek around a small island off Kota Kinabalu when "the monster" popped up in front of me at a bewildering speed (for its size: almost 2m it was impressive) to stop in the middle of the road. We watched each other 5 minutes before I decided to run away with a stick. I had no idea then of the danger represented by the claws of the beast (which I discovered on my photos at night).
    Nice meeting in any case! We take a few moments for a knight left to save a princess in an imaginary kingdom!

  10. Hello

    That's really impressive !!! 🙁

    A big thank you for the photos and the article, I just discovered today this big prehistoric lizard.
    I have never heard of it before, very nice meeting!


  11. I saw them on Rinca, too, near the... (drumroll) ranger station. Well, we had a little more luck, there was a wild horse killed by a dragon and one of them came to eat the leftovers. Otherwise, we would have had white cabbage, even for the other animals, except the water hens 😉

  12. @Bruno: 😆 I see we had a similar "adventure". However, our guide went to great lengths to try to find possible animal carcasses, on which the dragons could have come to feed, especially near the water points where the buffaloes come to drink... But nothing. We only came across monkeys, water hens, and a live buffalo...

  13. I reassure you, they are still there and are still alive! 🙂 I went to Rinca and Komodo last July...These big beasts are really impressive! But you can imagine that I learned a few months ago (only a few months after my visit) that 2 of them climbed in the ranger's hut and bit them ! It was a close call ! 😆

  14. I find your pictures beautiful ^^ but I just wanted to share a discovery: "Their saliva contains very toxic bacteria. NO "A bite can be fatal. YES but because of his venom !! here ^^
    thank you for this beautiful little travel diary